Risk Factors for Sexual Assault of Heterosexual and Sexual Minority College Women

Lora K. McGraw, Kimberly A. Tyler, Leslie Gordon Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Though college women report high rates of sexual assault, less is known about how protective and risk factors are uniquely associated with assault among heterosexual and sexual minority women. As such, the current study examined protective factors (i.e., maternal relationship quality and religiosity) and risk factors (i.e., child sexual abuse, parent substance misuse, and risky behaviors) for coercive sexual assault and total sexual assault and whether they vary by sexual orientation among college women. Data were gathered in the 2013–2014 academic year at two large public universities in the United States, one in the Midwest and one in the Southeast. Data for the current study included 755 college women, 72 (9.5%) of whom identified as sexual minority. Bivariate results showed that heterosexual women reported greater maternal relationship quality and greater religiosity compared to sexual minority women, while sexual minority women reported more risky sexual behaviors and having experienced more coercive sexual assault than heterosexual women. Multivariate results revealed that child sexual abuse, parent drinking problems, maternal relationship quality, heavy drinking, hooking up, and risky sexual behaviors were significantly associated with total sexual assault. Significant correlates of coercive sexual assault included child sexual abuse, maternal relationship quality, hooking up, and risky sexual behaviors. The relationship between maternal relationship quality and total sexual assault varied by sexual orientation as did the relationship between hooking up and coercive sexual assault. These findings have implications for targeted interventions to improve prevention of sexual assault among heterosexual and sexual minority college women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)NP8032-NP8055
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - May 2022


  • college students
  • protective factors
  • sexual assault
  • sexual minority
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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